Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Feathers

We have a one-person kitchen, so I’m waiting my turn to make the cranberry-apple casserole and German chocolate pies after Jerry finishes his turkey and dressing. And yes, I consider myself blessed to have a man who cooks so well. I’m sending this out into cyberspace on a day when I know many of you are in the kitchen yourselves, traveling, or gathered with family, so I’ll be brief.

We recently visited our granddaughter’s school on Grandparent’s Day—one of my favorite days of the year.

She gave us a bag of wonder to take home with us. Though I remarked on the pinecone turkey she’d made when I first saw it, it wasn’t until later that I had the opportunity to reflect on each of the blessings she’d written on the tail feathers: water, house, bed, church, Bible, food, clothes, family, pets, grandparents (of course), and Jesus.

So here’s my prayer for each of you this Thanksgiving. I pray that you might have many feathers of blessing. And as you pause to take notice of the small and great blessings in your lives that you will sense the resplendence of all He has done for you in Jesus Christ.

For the one who may be alone, or suffering loss this season, I pray the comfort of the Holy Spirit in the midst of your heartache.

Thanks to each of  you for spending a few moments of your life with me throughout the year. My dear readers, you are definitely one of my finest feathers.

Happy Thanksgiving!
"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 The Message).

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Last Thanksgiving

A little something different today from One Ringing Bell.
The year 2033

Somewhere in the United States of America

On a fall day, as Kara  stands in the kitchen working turkey flavored textured protein dough into bars, her ten-year-old daughter Leia pulls on her sweater, “Mama, let’s look at pictures from when you were little.”

Kara places a bar on a cookie sheet for baking. “Old pictures? Sounds a little boring.”

Leia leans against her mom, “I love hearing about the good old days.”


Kara smiles. “All right, but my hands are covered in dough. Pull my computer from my back pocket and plug it into the refrigerator port. We can look at pictures while I finish the turkey bars.”

As the device seats in the port, the refrigerator screen springs to life. “Good morning, how can I help you today, Kara?”

“Well, Hiri, can you finish making these protein bars?” Kara laughs.

“I wish I could. I have a fondness for those bars, because my mother, Siri, first stored the recipe for them.” Hiri lets go an electronic giggle. “Is there something I can do that’s more compatible with my features?”

“Leia wants to look at old pictures--maybe from around 2012 or 2013.”

“Searching the nebula for data,” Hiri says. The screen dances with digital photos.

“Those are great,” Kara squeals.

“You’re welcome,” Hiri responds.

Leia points to a picture of Kara in a school uniform. “Mom, what’s that on your back?”

“A backpack--we put our books in it for school.”

Leia appears incredulous and asks, “You didn’t have books on your computer?”

Kara's forgotten how much life has changed as she places the last protein bar on the cookie sheet. “We had eBooks, but not many textbooks on computer. Computers are so much smaller now. You have everything you need in your pocket."

Leia enlarges a photo of a group of people gathered around a table. “Is that your family? And what’s that in the middle of the table?”

Kara laughs as she wipes her hands on a bamboo towel. “That’s a real baked turkey, and that’s our family at Thanksgiving dinner.” Bittersweet feelings creep over her as the memories return.

“Thanksgiving dinner?” Leia asks.

Kara eases onto a kitchen stool as she explains. “All the family gathered together on a special day to thank God for our blessings as the first settlers did back in the 1600’s. But, I believe 2013 was our last Thanksgiving.”

Leia appears puzzled.

“Up until that point, stores had closed on Thanksgiving, because it was such a special holiday. That last year they started opening for business part of the day. As usual, your grandmother cooked a big meal for the whole family, but your great Aunt Susan pushed back from the table before she even took a bite of her turkey because she dashed out to get in line to buy an Xbox for Christmas for my cousin, Jeff.”

“What’s an Xbox, and why didn’t they just visit a virtual store?”

Kara shakes her head. “Xbox was a gaming system, and virtual stores weren’t like they are today.” Kara sighs. “Your Great Uncle Mike announced he saw a cheap flat screen at a discount store, so he tore out right after Susan.”

Leia’s brow furrows. “If houses didn’t come with screens in the walls, where did Hiri live?”

“Hiri wasn’t around then, so she didn’t need a place to live,” Kara responds. “Anyway, your grandmother grew sad because everyone left so quickly, and the next year, most of them said they’d rather shop than get together because the stores were open all day on Thanksgiving. Your grandmother died a couple of years later.”

Leia appears stunned. “Your family skipped Thanksgiving so they could go Christmas shopping, but why couldn’t they wait till after Thanksgiving to shop?”

Tears well in Kara’s eyes as she thinks about what they’d done. “Just trying to get more stuff for less money supposedly to give at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Leia says. “I don’t think Jesus wants us to celebrate his birth by not making time to offer thanks and enjoy our family.”

As Kara pulls Leia close, she nods at her daughter’s truthful summation. “And now they’re all gone, and so is that special Thanksgiving celebration. It’s just you and I and my cousin Jeff, wherever he is.”

“I wish I had a big family,” Leia says sadly. Then she brightens. “But we can still give thanks to God, and we can make our own Thanksgiving.” She points to Kara’s turkey bars. “We can have those for our celebration and invite cousin Jeff.”

From the refrigerator, Hiri says, “My mother told me about the  Thanksgiving tradition. Can I come?”

“Sure, Hiri,” Kara says. “But you’ll need to find a pumpkin pie.”

“Searching the nebula,” Hiri declares.

“And see if you can locate cousin Jeff,” Kara adds.

“Will do, but just so you know,” Hiri says. “He’s not bringing that Xbox. I’m totally incompatible.”

"Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:19-20).


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkins, pumpkins, and gratitude

I’m well aware that folks don’t usually look to One Ringing Bell for recipes.

But, I had all these pumpkins sitting around, and wondered what I could do with them. I’d been told years ago that the big pumpkins are hit or miss on texture and flavor, but still, I hated just to put them out in the mulch pile. From experience, I knew I’d have sprouts next year that’d produce a few baby pumpkins which either the deer or Lucy would quickly consume.

So, I searched the internet for what to do with pumpkins. My husband just said this past Sunday that you can find anything on the internet when for his sermon on making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, he found a picture of a woman seemingly knitting a silk purse from a real sow’s ear.

But, that’s another story entirely.

The first hit on my search was a link to Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.   I'm not much of a pioneer woman myself, but I did once have a ten pound baby through natural childbirth, but that, too, is another story. I’d read Drummond had over twenty million hits on her site—last month alone! I thought if that many people turned to her for culinary advice, she must be trustworthy. So I clicked, and she had a great how-to for making pumpkin purée.

 I checked the smoke alarm batteries, proceeded to the kitchen, and attacked a big pumpkin.

Since the Pioneer Woman has already done all the legwork on this, I’ll just share a couple of my own shots taking the pumpkin through the cutting, roasting, and puréeing and to prove to you I really did this. I tasted the purée and found it quite tasty.


Emboldened by this success, I used another recipe for Pumpkin Muffins from the Pioneer Woman’s blog.

They turned out beautifully, and have been given the thumbs up from all parties here at One Ringing Bell including the husband and the son.

And I have six packages of pumpkin purée in the freezer for future muffins.

So, before you kick those pumpkins to the curb, you might think about eating them. With the largest component of landfills in this country being food, it’d be a real step towards greater stewardship of our resources.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a redeemed tentmaker said in I Timothy 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” And yet, we so seldom are. There’s always the more that we’re after--that I’m after. So, I’m trying to be conscious of God’s provision for this day, trying to be less wasteful, trying to be more grateful for what I already have.

And I imagine that if I persist in this, it will turn what is a season of gratitude into a lifetime of gratitude.

Now, I’m off. One pumpkin down, and two more to go. These should put me at about 18 packs of puree.

Stand back for pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cheesecake, and even pumpkin pancakes. And don’t worry, I’ve stockpiled batteries for the smoke alarm.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Last week for Operation Christmas Child

This is the last week for Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box Collections, so I'm slipping in here with a repost. I turned my boxes in yesterday, but if you've not packed a box, there's still time. Check online at Samaritan's Purse for a collection center near you, pack a box or two,and take it before the weekend. If you'd like them to do it for you, just visit the Samaritan's Purse site and click that option. I imagine some of these boxes will find their way to the Philippines this year due to the tremendous need caused by the typhoon. Many thanks, Bev

It’s the time of the year to start thinking about packing your Operation Christmas Child box for Samaritan’s Purse. Last year, Samaritan’s Purse distributed shoeboxes to eight million children around the world. Our family has prepared boxes since our kids were little. Every year, each of them would pack one for a child their age and gender. Now, that the last two are both in college, my grandchildren jumped in to help me.

I spoke with Brittany this morning at Samaritan’s Purse and asked about the three most important items they’d like to see in a shoebox. She said hygiene materials are number one. Toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, soap and a comb or brush are essential elements in every box. Following these would be school supplies: notebooks, pencils, erasers, etc. Third on her list was a toy: a stuffed animal, a yo-yo, etc.

I’ve been working on my boxes for a year. I got the idea from my friend Dolly, who inspired me to shop for bargains, so that I could increase my number of boxes.

Here’s how:

After holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.) retailers mark down their seasonal merchandise to clear it. I look for items at 75% off—socks, coloring books, toys. Many go for as little as a quarter. When school supplies are reduced, I pick up crayons, markers, notebooks, and pencils. Just this week, I bought balls for each box, which were reduced from summer stock.

One thing I don’t scrimp on, and that’s toothpaste and a toothbrush that won’t make gums bleed. Children in the third world may not have brushed regularly, so it’s important to buy a good soft toothbrush. Also, if it’s in your budget, a light up toy or flashlight is great. Always include extra batteries. If a child lives without electricity, these things are a wonder. Also, give thought to the toy you include. Easily broken plastic is not a good idea. Look for things with more longevity—a slinky, a toy car.

If you start now, you can increase your number of boxes, too. You may download “How to Pack a Shoebox” and labels for the boxes HERE. Pay special attention to the items that shouldn’t be included. A toll-free number for drop off locations is provided or you can mail your shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child headquarters in North Carolina.

Here’s what especially motivated me. I heard a testimony this year from a missionary in Eastern Europe who spoke about how important the shoebox ministry was in bringing children to his church. He had opportunity to share the Good News with so many who’d never heard it before because of Operation Christmas Child.

That’s all I needed to hear. This year, instead of two boxes, I’m working on twelve.

I still have some items to collect, but I’m closing in on it, and have had some great help.

"Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities! "(Luke 12:48 The Message)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The death of an American President and finding our true country

The intercom in the third grade classroom crackles the words, “The President has been shot.” Several desks over, a girl laughs loud, her emotional reaction to something she doesn't understand. We are eight, and for many a new reality may be settling in.

Bad. Things. Really. Happen.

The laughing girl is now hysterically crying. The world tilts. Camelot burns.

I read recently that when boomers are asked where they were on the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, we most often respond, “In school.” A whole generation of us sat in oak desks pouring over new math and diagramming sentences unsuspecting the news hurling toward us would mark that day as one of the most memorable in our lifetime.

In the next few days, we’d watch grainy black and white footage of a president slumping over onto the lap of his wife, his blood staining what we were told was a pink Chanel suit. We didn’t have color television at our house, so we’d have to take the announcer’s word for it. We’d witness a son’s last salute as the hearse rolls by, and even though we'd only spent eight years on the planet, my classmates and I would feel the loss as the whole world mourned. I’d take out my little tea set made to look just like the one First Lady Jackie used, and wonder what would happen to us all. What would happen to our country?

On the same day an American President is struck down, across an ocean, another man dies. The events in Dallas eclipse his demise, and the death of Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, is buried deep in the news.

Seventeen years later, as a woman edging toward a cliff of despair after years of struggling, I crack open Mere Christianity, and within its pages find hope at last. More than any other book except the Bible, this book and others by C.S. Lewis have guided my spiritual journey.


As the fiftieth anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy draws near on November 22, we will hear much about that tragic day in Dallas.

I do not remember the death of C.S. Lewis, and I expect the anniversary of his death will pass with far less fanfare than that of Kennedy’s. But his life has had a tremendous impact on our world. It’s said that D.L. Moody helped reduce the population of hell by 1,000,000 souls. I wonder how many C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity has diverted from a dark destiny. Only God knows.

My raggedy copy of Mere Christianity has a broken spine. When opened, it splits to a chapter entitled, "Hope"—the four pages most read and underlined in the whole volume. Hope is what I desperately lacked, and hope is what I found so many years ago:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If this is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

What I didn’t know at eight years old when it seemed life was unraveling, and I was so fearful about the nation, is that God had another country for me—one which could not be touched by an assassin’s bullet.

 C.S. Lewis helped point me to that country.

On November 22, I’ll remember again those moments in a third grade classroom and the assassination of a President, but I’ll be forever grateful for the work of one man who helped me know my true citizenship.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank a Veteran Today

This past week, I've worked on a piano improvisation of Irving Berlin’s "God Bless America" to perform in church with my nephew as a piano-trumpet duet for Veteran’s Day. The song is actually a prayer, and it started me thinking several days in advance of Veteran's Day about the sacrifices of those who have served in the military.
Here at our house, we’re so thankful for all the ways God has blessed our country, and we’re especially grateful for those who have helped make those blessings possible.
On this Veteran's Day, we honor two dear to us, who served in the military during World War II and the Korean Conflict.

My dad served in the United States Air Force during the Korean Conflict from  1949-1952 as a Staff Sergeant in Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, and England.
I also want to remember my husband's father, though he's no longer with us, a Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1943 to 1945.

An astute man once wrote, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war…” (Ecclesiastes 9:18). So, in addition to our prayer that God would bless America, we also pray that God would grant her leaders that powerful wisdom that excels over military arms. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “Wisdom is better than warheads . . . .”

And indeed it is.

May you have a wonderful day, today, and remember to thank a Veteran for his or her service.

While researching the various versions of God Bless America out there, I came across this inspiring one performed by Celine Dion. Take a few moments to enjoy the music and as you listen, make it your prayer.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

If you need an army

Expectant with my first child, my husband and I were thrilled with the long awaited pregnancy. However, excitement turned to anxiety when I began to experience physical problems. As an older mother, I’d been labeled “high risk” and was all too aware of potential difficulties.

A creeping fear started to grip me.

In my daily Bible reading, I came across I Chronicles 12:21. “Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God.” I remembered David’s earlier battle against Goliath—how he went out alone in the power of God with a slingshot and a stone to fight the giant.

But now, David needed an army, and God sent one.

I felt alone in uncharted territory. “I feel like I need an army,” I prayed to God. “I need people to stand with us in this scary time—to help us fight this battle with fear.”

The next morning I received a call from a friend I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. He called just to encourage me. Several more calls from others followed throughout the day and in the days afterward. God did indeed send an army of people to pray for our family. As the prayers went up, peace came.

That baby so many prayed for will soon be twenty-two years old. I thank God for his precious life and the army of people God faithfully sent to pray with us even before he was born.
I’m very aware that the story doesn’t always turn out like this. A few years later, pregnant with my third child, I'd have problems again. I'd have an ultrasound, see the heartbeat, and the doctor would assure me that at that point the chances for miscarriage were small. But less than twenty four hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, I'd miscarry and hold a tiny lifeless baby in my hand.  And then, God sent an army full of compassion and care to help us through those hard days.

The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet, it was good of you to share in my troubles” (Philippians 4:13-14).

Yes, through Christ, we can do anything God calls us to do. Yet, as Paul says, what a blessing when others come to stand alongside us like Aaron and Hur holding up the hands of Moses.

Maybe you need an army today, so I’m praying for you that God would speak to those who could come and stand with you. Or maybe, God is calling you to be part of that army for someone else.

Either way, that army called the body of Christ is a precious thing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

If you're looking for a door of hope

In Hosea 2, the heading in my Bible reads, “Israel Punished and Restored.” There’s a lengthy exposition of Israel’s disobedience followed by some of the most compassionate verses in the Bible: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

The first time I ever read these verses, I checked the footnote, which gave the definition of Achor as meaning trouble. I loved that God was saying of the depths of trouble, He would make a door of hope.
But, I had only begun to understand these verses.

In Joshua, we read the story of the fall of Jericho. Joshua instructed Israel, “The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord" (Joshua 6:17). This meant all plunder from Jericho after its fall was to be put into the Lord’s treasury. 

However, Achan  disobeyed this command with tragic consequences and took for himself gold, a Babylonian robe, as well as silver shekels, and hid them under his tent. When it was discovered he had done this, he and all that belonged to him were destroyed. Afterward the place where this destruction occurred was called the Valley of Achor.

The Valley of Achor is not just the place of trouble; it’s the scene of our worst nightmare, the place of utter desolation, the location of absolute failure.

It's of that place, God says, He will make a door of hope.

After the death of Jesus on the cross, when His friends had gone, His disciples had scattered, and all seemed lost, God raised Jesus from the dead to become our door of hope for all eternity.

When the horror of world events shakes, or tragedy strikes close and hard, or failure and sin overwhelm, what God says about the Valley of Achor helps us cling to the hope God offers in Jesus.

No matter how terrible the situation, He can bring hope, redemption, and mercy if we turn to Him.

If you are standing in your own Valley of Achor, He is your refuge and strength.  

There are no hopeless situations, for with God, tragedy becomes the building material for a door of hope.
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